Nebraska vs. Minnesota, 10.17.15

Dan Van De Riet jumps on strength coach Mark Philipp while celebrating the Huskers' win against Minnesota in October, 2015, in Minneapolis.

As Dan Van De Riet prepared to go to bed on Saturday night in a hotel in California, his television flashed back at him pictures of the local fire chief reporting from Calabasas High School, where a command station had been set up.

Wildfires had hit the area. More than 500 acres had been scorched. People were being evacuated from their homes. Far less important, yet of matter to the entire Husker staff that had made the trip out west, was that a football camp the following Sunday morning at Calabasas High now seemed unlikely.

"I was like, 'Ahhhh, it's going to get interesting in the morning,'" said Van De Riet, Nebraska's associate athletic director for football operations.

It was a camp hosted by Calabasas High, so the Huskers weren't calling the shots here.

But when the morning did come, Van De Riet said Ryan Gunderson, Nebraska's director of player personnel, was a steady hand as a new plan was formed to move the football camp about 20 miles away to Oak Park High School.

"It was pretty neat watching Gundy the next day really communicate our plan out with the high school change and where we were going and what we were doing," Van De Riet said. "It ended up running really smooth."

Husker coaches saw more than 160 prospects at the camp — including quarterback Tristan Gebbia and wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr., already committed to Nebraska. Also there was a top-shelf prospect like five-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey, who has Nebraska among his nine finalists and tweeted out after the camp his love for NU wide receivers coach Keith Williams.


So, yes, it was a good weekend in California for Husker staffers.

Now, the focus shifts to Nebraska's camps on its home turf.

The first of three Friday Night Lights camps in June begins this week. There's a Big Man camp next Monday that includes a few prospects Husker coaches are eyeing. There's a Skill Positions camp next Tuesday.

There's also six days of youth camps for young players not yet in high school.

The response has been positive. A year ago, NU drew 1,187 participants to its camps. Van De Riet said there are currently 1,248 signed up for this year's sessions, with registration not closed on some.

"When we look at our camps, we want to serve the community in all phases," Van De Riet added. "We've got third-through-eighth grade camps. Those aren't kids we're recruiting. That's an opportunity for these local kids that live and die with the Huskers and get to be coached by our coaches, our players, and come have a good time. So you're serving that age group.

"And then you're serving the age group of the kids that want to come and just learn more football. Not every guy that comes to camp is going to be a Nebraska scholarship offer, but they're going to come with expectations to want to be coached."

Like everything else in recruiting, summer football camps at schools like Nebraska now get blown up into headlines, too.

Van De Riet good-naturedly recalls just 10 or 15 years ago when these camps were mostly about skill development of some local kids while providing "a way to get your GA's some more money so they could live over the summer."

Now it is closely watched if anyone camping might receive an offer.

Last year, Norfolk Catholic tight end David Engelhaupt did enough in front of Husker coaches at a summer camp to earn an offer just two days before signing day. "It's another good example of what an opportunity at a camp can do for a young man," Husker head coach Mike Riley said later.

And while Ashland-Greenwood defensive end Ben Stille received an offer in early May last year, he actually committed a day after further impressing Husker coaches at a Friday Night Lights camp last summer.

This year, when it was momentarily announced that satellite camps were going to be banned, Husker staffers decided to add a third Friday Night Lights camp. After satellite camps were put back in play, NU kept with its plan of the extra camping night anyway.

Anytime you can get potential prospects on campus, Van De Riet knows it's an extra bonus. For all parties, really.

"I would hope that the kids that come to our camp know that they're going to learn, No. 1, and be looked at, No. 2."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


Load comments